Animating Archives Workshop 2: “You’ve been talking about access today”

Image: Minutes from Cambridge House Literary Scheme meeting, November 1976, found in the Jo Spence Memorial Archive, Ryerson Image Centre, Toronto.

We are pleased to announce the details of our second workshop surrounding the Jo Spence Memorial Library Archive, to take place via zoom. Please register via Eventbrite. 

March 19th 2021 | 16:00- 18:30

How to reproduce the past via extension not replication? 

Drawing from documents belonging to photographer, activist and historian Terry Dennett, held in the Jo Spence Memorial  Archive at the Ryerson Image Centre in Toronto, the second Animating Archives workshop invites artist Winnie Herbstein to collaborate with workshop participants to discuss and re-enact written material from Dennett’s photography and literacy workshops.

Found amongst Terry Dennett’s records were minutes from a meeting of women at the Cambridge House social centre in Camberwell in 1976. These minutes document a discussion of the women’s needs and desires for a forthcoming photography and literacy workshop, organized by Dennett, as well as their struggles with the council, access to public funds and issues around work and childcare. Script-like, taken from real discussion but edited by the note taker and potentially Dennett, these minutes are a textual document of the concerns of working-class women and their families in London in the 1970s, and the grassroots pedagogical practice of Dennett and his collaborators.

This document will form the basis of the workshop and discussion. With Herbstein and invited speakers Noorafshan Mirza and Chris Jones, workshop participants will read through the minutes from the meeting as a script. After taking on the roles of the women, speaking their concerns as noted in the document, there will be a discussion of the issues at stake: of housing and access to resources and the right to represent oneself both in the 1970s and today.
The invited speakers will present their work on the issues that arise including social reproduction theory, co-operatively run arts organizations and housing struggle in London. Participants are encouraged to discuss their own research on these topics as well concerns around the ethics of re-performance of historical documents, identity, art as activism and any other issues that arise from the minutes and our group’s handling of them.
The source material used for this workshop is from Ryerson Image Centre who keep the majority of the Jo Spence Memorial Archive collection. Animating Archives is a project between the Women’s Art Library at Goldsmiths University and the Jo Spence Memorial Library Archive at Birkbeck University, which keeps materials belonging to Dennett and Spence as well as a collection of books relating to Spence and a section of Dennett’s personal library.

Workshop organised by Alexandra Symons Sutcliffe.

This workshop is aimed at PhD researchers who are working creatively and politically with archival material, but is open to all, although numbers are limited. Please sign up for the workshop via Eventbrite, and any questions can be sent to:

This series of events is funded by the CHASE consortium 


Terry Dennett was a photographer, social historian and workshop organiser. He was a long-term collaborator with Jo Spence and the principal archivist of her estate between her death in 1991 and his in 2018. As well mediating Spence’s legacy, Dennett’s preservation of her collaborative practice provides a mould for the history of radical portrait and documentary photography in Britain in the 1970s and 80s. This workshop focuses on Dennett’s practice both in its own right and as an example of how the histories of others that appear even in monographic archives.

Winnie Herbstein is an artist. Recent work focuses on gendered labour and materials, historical and contemporary forms of organising, and the architecture and formation of space. These are explored through practice-based research, finding their output in the medium of video and sculpture. She is currently researching for a film exploring histories of housing, health and activism in Glasgow.

Chris Jones is a long-term volunteer at radical social centre and archive 56a Infoshop in The Elephant and also member of the political sound art group Ultra-red focusing on housing struggles in The Elephant.

Noorafshan Mirza is an artist and writer, often working as an artist-duo with long term collaborator Brad Butler. Known for their Film and Video practice and exhibition making, Mirza and Butler have been co-directing award-winning artists’ Film and Video works for 23 years. Their awards and commissions include nomination for the Film London Jarman Award in 2012, The Artes Mundi Award 2015, and they were winners of Artist Film International 2015 and the Paul Hamlyn Award for Visual artists 2015. Their work has been commissioned by Artangel, the Hayward gallery, The Sydney Biennale, Film London, Film and Video Umbrella, the Serpentine Gallery and The Walker Arts Centre.

Mirza writes: “I visualise in fragments and love to collage. I both write and think in unstructured sentences. Communication: it is both a struggle and a pleasure to be legible. My writing is mostly visual in the form of filmmaking. I get a lot out of music, lyrically: I’m listening a lot to Little Simz, Agent Sasco, Alice Coltrane, Burna Boy, NX Panther. I’m an avid reader of poetry, it takes me to places where I can journey. I am a committed amateur boxer and Kundalini yoga student and have recently set up my own company to act as a football agent for talented players from the global south. The esoteric and healing arts are also a passion of mine. I am Piscean Sun, Capricorn ascendent and my moon is in Libra. As an artist of mixed class, caste and racial heritage, I have been on a long journey of decolonising myself, my education, my body, and my intimate relationships. I have simultaneously been unlearning and self-educating. I’ve always got a good book or two on me.”

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